Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GVD) commonly known as bloat is a life threatening condition in dogs that most dog owners know very little about. Next to cancer, bloat is considered to be the leading killer of dogs. Bloat has practically no home remedies although giving the dog Mylanta Gas or other medications with simethicone would give the owner a little more time to get the dog to the vet. Time is of the essence for this condition. A dog can die within an hour thus a vet facility should be called immediately to notify that a dog suspected with bloat case is on the way.

The stomach of a dog is not anchored on anything inside the body thus it can move freely. When the stomach is filled with food and contains excess air it swells. The excessive accumulation of air in the stomach causes it to rotate, twist or flip 90 to 360 degrees trapping food, water and air inside. The bloated stomach puts pressure on the spleen and on the nearby organs. The large veins in the abdomen are compressed by the air filled stomach cutting off blood supply and preventing the blood from returning to the heart. The twisting of the stomach closes the esophagus preventing the dog’s efforts to vomit or to burp to relieve the distention. If treatment is not administered the dog can die in an hour.

A distended abdomen; an abdomen that does not have the normal digestive gurgling sounds are the trademarks of bloat. Unfortunately, these symptoms are difficult to notice especially on long and thickly haired breeds. The dog would not be its usual self. The dog would appear anxious, restless and immensely uncomfortable. Unproductive vomiting is another sign. The dog would repeatedly retch and heave but nothing would come up. The dog’s hunched up appearance, the whining and the profuse salivation indicates that the dog is in severe pain. A weak pulse, rapid heartbeat and pale or bluish gums are signs that the dog’s condition has worsened. The dogs may go into shock, collapse and die.

Studies have shown that bloat mainly results from the dog’s eating habits and from activities that causes the dog to swallow air excessively. Dogs are noted for being voracious eaters. Eating and drinking rapidly, especially on elevated bowls causes a dog to swallow more air. Allowing the dog to exercise just after eating or letting the dog to have a go at the water bowl right after a strenuous activity increases the risk for bloat. Normally, the swallowed air is released when the dog burps. For some reasons, dogs that develop bloat cannot release the swallowed gas. Bloat can happen to all breeds. However, Great Danes, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Saint Bernard and other large and deep-chested breeds are most likely candidates.

Prevention would naturally be preferable than treatment. Know if your dog is one of the susceptible breeds. If you know that your pet has the eating habit of sniffing all the contents of the doggie bowl, it would be wise to divide one big meal into smaller meals that will be given three to four times daily. Do not allow the dog to exercise before and right after eating. Make Fido’s meal time stress free by letting other pets have their own dining area. Bloat can recur especially on bloat prone breeds. A dog that has survived can have future bloat episodes. Owners of these bloat prone dogs can opt for prophylactic surgery that anchors the stomach and prevents it from twisting again.

As mentioned, there is no first aid or home treatment for bloat. Treatment necessary for this life threatening condition can only be administered by a veterinarian. This is one case is where having the number of a vet is a heaven sent. Every minute counts to save the life of the pet. A call will alert the vet and the staff to prepare while the dog is being transported. Antibiotics, pain relievers and anti-arrhythmic will be administered. A tube will be inserted down the dog’s throat to remove excess air. If this method is unsuccessful in decompressing the stomach, large bore needles will be placed directly to the stomach through the skin and muscles. Once the dog is stabilized, a surgery may be needed to reposition the stomach.

Bloat is a serious condition. Knowing the signs, the causes and the prevention can be of much help in saving the life of the pet.

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